New Delhi: BJP MP Bhola Singh on Wednesday questioned the government's decision to launch 'smart cities' and said that while western India had development, it lacked brains.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a long-time chief minister of Gujarat, was in the Lok Sabha when the remark was made.
The member from Begusari said in the house that the smart cities project would only help the developed cities to make further progress and increase regional imbalances.
Asking supplementary questions, Bhola Singh, who had attacked the BJP leadership for its debacle in Bihar last year, created a flutter when he said: "While eastern India lacks development, it has brains. Western India has development but lacks brains."
Although he represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha, the prime minister hails from Gujarat in western India.
Bhola Singh said Modi had said once that eastern India had 'brains' and lacked development.
Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, however, said Modi never made such remarks.
"All over the country and in all parts, east, west, north or south, everywhere we have people with intellect," Naidu said.
Much to the embarrassment of the treasury benches, many opposition members cheered Bhola Singh, who asked Venkaiah Naidu to clarify how the smart cities projects would benefit small towns and a state like Bihar.
Bhola Singh wanted to know how the smart cities scheme was different from the work already being undertaken by urban local bodies.
At one point, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay supported the contention that eastern India and states like West Bengal had faced discrimination of "regional imbalances".
"The process is still continuing," Bandyopadhyay said.
Gorakhpur's BJP member Yogi Adityanath also wanted to know from Naidu why no city from Uttar Pradesh had been selected for the ambitious programme.
Naidu strongly countered the members and said the central government or his ministry was not doing any discrimination in selecting the cities for smart cities projects.
"Even my own town Nellore does not figure in the list," Naidu said. In contrast, cities like Guwahati and Bhubaneswar have figured in the list of 100 smart cities.
Naidu also made a veiled attack on the Trinamool regime in West Bengal, blaming it for lack of proper governance.
"Only fund is not the criteria for smart city programmes. Governance is also important and I think you understand what I mean," Naidu told Trinamool members.
The minister said the project was aimed at creating 100 smart cities to work as 'light houses' for others to follow.